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Reflections! What's your family cure for hiccups?
What's your family cure for hiccups?
By William L. Bulla
Weekly Contributing Writer
Recently, while dining with some friends in a local restaurant, the topic of hiccups came into discussion. It seems that everyone has one or more suggestions of how to get rid of them.
One person in our party said her father had always placed a teaspoonful of peanut butter in the roof of her mouth, which could be swallowed after a few seconds. Another said his family remedy was to hold one's breath and take ten sips of cold water. Then there was a discussion among others whether the number of sips of water should be five, seven or ten. Also, should the water be hot, cold or room temperature?
Before the evening was over I had heard many other family remedies for handling hiccups. Drink a glass of water while someone presses your ears closed. Drink water from the far side of a glass (so you're drinking upside-down). Breathe in as deeply as possible, drink a glass of water while exhaling, then burp. Drink water slowly from a glass covered with a napkin, hanky or other fine cloth. Drink as much water as you can out of a glass of water with a metal spoon in it. Take a big gulp of water, lie down, and swallow the water while holding your nose shut.
With one hand, apply pressure to the gums above your front teeth and to a point just below your nose. Apply pressure to your forehead just above your eyes. Breathe through a wet washcloth. Smell the fumes from a lighted candle. Put ice bags on both sides of your throat. Breathe into a paper bag for a while. Massage the back of the roof of your mouth with a cotton swab. Having a person scare you.
What are hiccups? Hiccups are little more than a reflex. We get them when the vagus nerve or one of its branches, which runs from the brain to the abdomen, is irritated. Experts say hiccups are most often a reaction to common digestive disturbances. And they're usually more a nuisance than anything else.
What causes hiccups? (1) A very full stomach can cause bouts of hiccups that go away on their own. A full stomach can be caused by eating too much food too quickly, thus not chewing your food thoroughly, or drinking too much alcohol. (2) Swallowing too much air. (3) Smoking. (4) A sudden change in stomach temperature, such as drinking a hot beverage and then a cold beverage. (5) Emotional stress or excitement.
The home remedies, used to stop hiccups, are believed to work on two principles. One way to stifle hiccups is to overwhelm the vagus nerve with another sensation. Items like peanut butter, pickle juice, sugar, and a cotton swab in the roof of the mouth overloads the nerve endings with another sensation. Someone shouting, "Boo" to scare you can overwhelm the vagus nerve. Water interrupts the hiccup cycle and quiets the nerve. Holding hands tightly over the ears prevents sounds from stimulating the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve signals the brain that more important matters have arisen, so it's time to knock off the hiccups.
Other methods, like holding one's breath while drinking and breathing into a paper bag, interferes with one's breathing and increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. This probably causes the body to become more concerned with getting rid of the carbon dioxide than making hiccups.
So there it is! What started as a casual conversation with a couple of friends, developed into and evening of activity with many others I did not even know. Later I went on-line to discover there are hundreds, and hundreds of other family remedies for hiccups. Most of them seem to be variations of the treatments I have listed above. What is your remedy?
William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.
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